Ask yourself this: Do you know all of the candidates in the running for the upcoming Philadelphia mayoral election? Or even one?
It is probably safe to presume that most answered “no” to the former, and — let’s face it — most said “no” to the latter as well.
In general, Penn students are embarrassingly uninformed when it comes to Philadelphia politics. For members of the supposed “Civic Ivy,” which flaunts student involvement in the local community, we are hypocritically apathetic towards local political affairs. It’s time we become less detached.
We have an obligation to be informed voters. It is our duty as part of the greater Philadelphia community, as citizens and as an institution whose future is indelibly tied to that of Philadelphia. The elections are not just the matter of the Philadelphia locals you see on the street on your way to Chipotle. We are locals, too.
Therefore, we urge all of you registered as voters in Pennsylvania to turn out to vote for the mayoral elections. Even if you aren’t a registered voter, keep yourself informed. Currently, three candidates lead the polls: Lynne Abraham, Jim Kenney and Anthony Williams.
The Daily Pennsylvanian has chosen to endorse Mr. Kenney as the most capable candidate for Philadelphia mayor.
Jim Kenney has held a seat on the city’s Council-at-Large for 24 years, since 1991. With involvement and leadership in various committees including, but not limited to, the Council Committee on Labor and Civil Service (which handles labor, retirement and pensions), the Committee on Rules (which handles zoning, city planning and procedure of the Council), the Committee on the Environment (which handles air and water quality, waste management and green spaces) and the Committee on Law and Government (which handles the Law Department and moral claims against the city), Kenney has ample experience covering a wide range of the myriad aspects of governing Philadelphia to prepare him for mayorship.
By pushing forward the LGBT Equality Bill in 2013 — which made Philadelphia the largest city in the nation to offer broad protections to the LGBT community — he has gained the support of many within the city, including the AFL-CIO and LGBT leaders, such as state Rep. Brian Sims, the first openly gay man to be elected to the legislature. At Penn, the Penn Democrats have thrown their support behind Kenney as well. Additionally, after the brutal Center City attacks in 2014, he helped pass an ordinance that imposes elevated punishments for violent attacks based on gender identity, sexual orientation or disability status.
We find his clear plans for improving the economy, education, public safety, transportation, transparency in government and equality are better informed than that of rival candidate Anthony Williams, whose experiences are also limited to the state level at the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives and Senate. Although we may not completely agree with all of his plans, we are more willing to back Kenney, who seems to have realistic goals and a better understanding of the workings of our city’s government. For a mayoral candidate, we seek someone whose knowledge and experience are specifically relevant to Philadelphia.
We concede that Lynne Abraham is also a strong candidate with substantial experience in the Philadelphia locale. After 19 years as Philadelphia’s district attorney following a string of judicial and administrative roles, Abraham has been a staple in the local political scene. However, we must admit reservations about her physical ability. While we do not mean to devalue her worth as a candidate by age alone, 74-year-old Abraham’s collapse during the debate on April 7 remains the most memorable episode of the elections thus far. We are also concerned with her track record of aggressively pursuing the death penalty during her tenure as district attorney. This fact is particularly salient today with the recent focus on law enforcement overreach as a dominant issue of social justice.
A mayor cannot immediately bring about dramatic changes in our lives. But as the leading political figure of the city, he or she will have immense influence on how the city is run for the next four years, which, for better or worse, indirectly affects the course of our university’s future as well.
Therefore, we Penn students have a stake in the well-being of our home city of Philadelphia. Choosing the best candidate for mayor is part of our responsibility to the city and to ourselves. And the most prudent option is electing James F. Kenney for Philadelphia mayor.
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